A Guest Post By Jennifer Dougherty
Jennifer is a longtime student of mine. I wrote about her last week and how she recently broke her leg. I asked her to write a guest post for me since she has so much time now, waiting on her leg to heal! Jennifer has managed to find horses through college and was the first thing she did when she moved to a new state, find the horses!
I know I have done my job as a trainer when my students can go out and put the skills I have taught them over the years to good use. Jennifer has done exactly that with her part-time job as a trail guide. Of course, I wanted to know every detail, so I asked her to share and here it is!
Horse People Always Seem To Find Other Horse People!
When I signed up to take an aerials silks dance class, the last thing I expected was to find a second job. After chatting with my instructor about our mutual love for horses, she suggested I check out her part-
time job as they were looking for some extra help. Luckily, I fit the bill and, after an extensive working interview-turned first day, I was officially hired to work on Saturdays at Elk Mountain Trails (EMT).
History of EMT
Opened in 1987, EMT is run by the world’s friendliest and most welcoming couple, Tom and Barb Albrecht. Mr. Tom takes care of the horses and the farm; every day he’s out in the field fixing a fence board or putting new stirrups on a saddle. Mrs. Barb handles the administrative side of things. She schedules the rides and groups for the day and is often out there helping us get families checked in, answering questions, and fitting helmets.
EMT Offers A Safe Trail Experience For All!
Elk Mountain offers trail rides in Harpers Ferry on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays beginning in March and going through mid-November. Depending on the time of year, the rides will go out at different times of the day as the lighting and weather allow, generally starting at 9 or 10 am, then going out every two hours. They offer different rides to accommodate riders of all experience levels including one, one and a half, and two hours rides.
C&O Canal Or Mountain Top Ride
Guests can then choose between riding on the C&O canal in Harper’s Ferry or on top of the mountain through the woods and fields. Unless specified, all the rides are held at the walk, so guests of all experiences and comfort levels can enjoy the ride.
A Ride For A Variety Of Level Riding Guests
Those who do have prior riding experience can sign up for the “Horse Enthusiast” ride, for something a little more advanced. For this ride, we go down on the canal and, as long as there’s space to do so safely, can trot and canter. However, to make sure everyone has a good time, we only go as fast as the least experienced and most the nervous rider feels comfortable doing.
Other Offers And Special Events
Elk Mountain works closely with local scout groups, offering merit badge workshops. They have discounts for military veterans, scouts, church groups, and groups larger than eight people. They also offer special events, like the Mother’s Day brunch ride, or the moonlight ride that goes out once a month.
Recommendation For Inexperienced Riders
For those just starting out, I recommend the one-hour mountaintop ride, as it’s a good way to get comfortable and is very laid back. The nice part is that, regardless of which side you choose, the view is stunning all around!
You Can’t Have Trail Rides Without Trail Horses!
Finally, there’s the best part, and what makes it all happen- the horses. Having ridden with our regular fabulous author, Ellison Hartley, for 17 years I’ve been lucky enough to sit on a wide variety of extremely gentle and forgiving lesson horses. The horses at Elk Mountain are very similar. They know their jobs and the trails, probably better than the guides do! They allow riders of all sizes and ages and experiences and areas bomb-proof as they come. Bridges, deer, foxes, buses, puddles, and kayaks are just all part of the job for these incredibly calm horses. That’s not to say they’re without their own personalities and quirks. I’ll get more in-depth about those later.
Choosing Which Trail Horse To Partner Riders With…There Is A Lot To It!
The horses live right there on the farm, with their own little cliques and herds. In fact, many of the horses are related to one another! When it’s time to ride the horses get tied up to a specific fence or post. They get fed, groomed, and tacked, and then we get to riding! Part of the job is to assign horses, and it’s harder than it sounds. You have to take into consideration a person’s experience and confidence, the horse’s personality, the person’s size and weight and age, which trail they’re going on, which horses get along with each other, and how big a person’s group is. We try to keep people’s groups together, but some horses must be in the front or back or won’t cross a certain bridge, or don’t like each other. It becomes a big job!
Meet Some Of The Horses
Now for the part, I’ve been looking forward to- introducing the horses!
Dusty – Missouri Fox Trotter
AKA “Trusty Dusty”, he’s our perfect bomb-proof kids’ horse. All of our smallest guests ride Dusty, as he can be trusted to follow the leader. He’s so good he doesn’t even stop to eat grass!
Mystic – Tennessee Walker
Get ready to raise your standards: Mystic was Mr. Tom’s engagement ring to Mrs. Barb 20 years ago! He always follows Dusty on the trail and has a beautiful running walk that’s very fun to ride!
Cinnabar – Appaloosa/Paint/Arabian
Born at EMT, Cinna is the definition of a sassy mare! She pretends not to like anyone or anything, but she’s actually a big lovebug. She’s some guides first choice for leading a trail or giving our intro speech.
Sequoia – Appaloosa
Cinna’s mom (and only friend), Sequoia is a favorite of mine. She’s incredibly laidback and sets a good pace for the others to follow. The perfect example of a “steady eddy”!
Danny Boy – Gypsy Vanner
Danny is probably the cutest and hairiest horse on the farm! He’s very versatile as he can go anywhere in the lineup and can lead out with a guide. He’s small but strong and is very good for more timid riders.
Patches – Paint Horse
Every farm has a Patches. If you’ve ridden with Ellison Hartley you might know him as Romeo or Chaps or Huey. Patches is as perfect as they come and can trusted to take excellent care of his person. He’s even taken a blind girl on a ride!
Tagalong – Paint/Percheron
Tag is the definition of a gentle giant! Our bigger, taller riders get Tag as he takes up a lot of leg. Just because he’s big doesn’t mean he’s scary. He knows his job and always brings up the rear of the ride. We fondly call him the Big Comfy Couch!
Windsong – Paint/Arabian
Windsong is another versatile guide favorite. In the lineup he prefers to be in front of his dad, Patches, but he’s also a great trailblazer! As you can see, he’s also extremely gorgeous!
Rusty – Quarter Horse
One of my all-time favorites, I’ve already decided Rusty will be who I ride when I’m finally back from my injury. Rusty knows his job, he can go anywhere in the lineup, and he’s super laidback. As a bonus, he has a very comfy trot and canter!
Nugget – Quarter Horse
Similar to Rusty, Nugget is a gorgeous golden palamino who knows his job and does it well. He’s not a fan of bridges, but he makes up for it by being versatile, laidback, and gentle.
Pegasus- Polish Arabian
Exceptionally cute, Peggy loves to be near his buddies and is very gentle and cuddly. He’s great to use to scout groups because he’s always interested in the kids and his smaller size makes him very approachable.
Sugar – Kentucky Mountain Horse
Sugar is pretty, and she knows it! She’s great for all levels or guests, but experienced riders especially have fun with her as she has quite the personality. She is also gaited and has lots of buttons if you know how to ask.
Echo – Polish Arabian
Echo is the ultimate kid’s horse! You can put your reins down and she’ll take you exactly where you need to go. Her small size makes her kid friendly, and she gets along well with most of the horses which makes her easy to place in the lineup.
That’s Not Even All Of Them!
You will have to come and meet them for yourself. You can find more information on http://www.elkmountaintrails.com .or by calling 301-834-8882